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Colton in his jersey and helmet.

He shoots, he scores! Colt’s Game has undeniable impact.

Colt’s Game is an annual hockey game and fundraiser hosted by Lion’s Heart Initiative. Inspired by Colton and his story, the event is all about disability advocacy and the importance of inclusive sports.

Colton absolutely loves hockey, skiing and pretty much all winter sports. The 8-year-old loves the competition, games, and the joy of having fun out in the cold. However it wasn’t until Colton came to Holland Bloorview that he learned about how he could participate using adaptive equipment and by playing accessible and inclusive games.

Born with a congenital defect in his spine, Colt’s T11 vertebrae was deformed and his T12 did not develop. His father Adam shared that it was following reconstructive spinal surgery at the age of 4, that Colton came to Holland Bloorview, and their world and ideas for his future changed.

During his inpatient stay, and as an outpatient Colton received numerous therapies, treatments, and services through Holland Bloorview, many of which have been in collaboration with his team at Sick Kids. Adam notes both hospitals have been instrumental in “achieving milestones and setting him up for independence across his lifespan.”

“That independence for Colton is key for his long term success,” shares Adam, when talking about how Holland Bloorview trained the family in catheterization. “It’s not only just physically challenging but mentally too, and we couldn’t have done it without the support of Holland Bloorview. Now that [Colton] can catheterize himself, he can have sleepovers and spend a week with his grandparents.”

Adam notes that impact of Holland Bloorview goes beyond medical treatment, but “understanding the social and community aspects of Colton’s regular life and how he can get involved.”

Connecting with Community Sports

It was important to Adam to find ways for Colton to participate in sports and other physical activities. Adam says that together with the Spina Bifida clinic, they experimented and learned about the wide variety of adaptive sports and equipment available at Holland Bloorview, and more importantly in their local community.

 “When you're a parent of a child with disability, you don't know what to do,” said Adam. “You don't know how to get off the ground. Holland Bloorview gave me that momentum and pointed us the right direction. So that as the parent I can find different ways to get involved and Colt is then able to explore what he likes on his own.”

There are so many ways to make sports and recreation more inclusive and accessible, both at Holland Bloorview and beyond. Colton was able to try out different equipment and see what he liked best through the hospital’s Adapted Recreation Equipment Loan Program.

“Holland Bloorview is how we got into things. Trying out different bikes, understanding what skiing opportunities are out there. I ski and I wanted him to ski, so now through CADS he skis every Sunday. And in terms of sledge hockey, while that’s all because of Michael.”

Colt’s Game and the Lion’s Heart Initiative with Michael Douglas

Michael is a York University varsity hockey player who was looking for ways to give back to his community.

It wasn’t until he met Colton and his dad Adam while serving them at the restaurant JOEY in 2022 that he began to figure out how he could get a start.”

“Although he’s only 8, Colton is a hero to me,” says Michael. “He has been such a driving force in why The Lion Heart Initiative was started.”

Colt’s Game was the Lion Heart Initiative’s first event. “We had Colt out to a York University Hockey game. He met the guys, read out our starting lineup, and did the ceremonial puck drop. This year, for our second annual Colt’s Game raised $1000 for Holland Bloorview.”

Now in full swing, the Lion’s Heart Initiative works with kids from Holland Bloorview Kids Rehabilitation Hospital, and other organizations across the GTA, to build strength, courage, and friendships. For Michael, it was his relationship with Colton that showed him how meaningful community connections can be.

“It’s important to advocate for [kids with disabilities] and ensure people understand that they can and will accomplish whatever they want. Support and inclusion are equally important, and by getting involved you get to see it from a different perspective,” shared Michael. “As varsity athletes we don’t realize how lucky we are, or how easy it is to give back. Colt is now an integral part of our team, and his story has helped change a lot of our dynamic.”

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